This is the saga of “Big Red Mama and Her Friends”: A Great 2-hour Adventure about Getting Chickens in 5 Acts.

Act 1: Going to Get the Chickens:

Papa sets out with James, Bella, and Kats to get the chickens from Mrs. Jan’s farm. On the drive over, they talk about how fun it’s going to be to have chickens, how they’ve never had pets (besides the worms, of course; but they decide they don’t count as pets), AND they make a deal: there are three kids in their family, so they will have three chickens to start. Each children gets to pick and name one bird.That all goes down swimmingly. They get the birds, and convert that ole flat screen TV box into a cage to transport those chickens back to their new home.

Big Red Mama: the chicken!

Stay tuned for the adventures of Big Red Mama & friends (montage: J Fowler)

Act 2: Naming the Birds:

On the way back home, they start to brainstorm about names. Kats comes up with a Disney classic “Snow White.”  Isabella suggests “Goldie,” and then settles on “Goldilocks.”  James wants to call his bird “Big Red.” Hmm….Big Red, not a very ‘henny’ name, you might say. So, they get straight about the difference between a rooster and a hen, and that all of their birds are hens.  Convinced that Big Red is somehow fitting, James just tags on “Mama” to “Big Red” and their last bird has a name!

Off they go down the road: Papa, James, Bella, Kats, Snow White, Goldilocks, and Big Red Mama.

Act 3: Arrival and Escape:

They get to the community garden and within sight of the “chicken tractor”–the new abode for their three aviary pets. Dear Mrs. Jan’s parting words are ringing in their ears–”The birds need to stay inside their new home for 3 straight days for their “homing” instinct to reset to the chicken tractor.” So they make a plan:  take the birds straight to the coop while still in the box; open the gate to the coop; slide the box (with chickens) into the coop; release birds into coop….and bingo: they start bonding with their new pad. A flawless plan if there ever was one.

As it turns out, Big Red Mama (hereafter, BRM) has other plans. When James reaches to take BRM out, she starts to strut her stuff around garden. “No worries,” Papa thinks to himself: “Our garden has a fence. She can’t go far.” BRM, a bit agitated from the car ride, decides she’s not ready for settled “chicken tractor” life and goes A-Wall, or, A-Fence, if you can picture that. This is where the plot thickens and gets a little too thick for one Papa with 3 kids and 3 new chickens. While BRM is already out of the garden and into the woods; Snow White gets loose, too!  Papa yells “Stay calm!” a few times; then he realizes that he’s not being cool under pressure….

James manages to get Goldilocks home safely, then he’s off into the woods after his beloved BRM. Somehow Papa gets Snow White to park it under a fir tree. So, with no cell phone to call in Chicken Patrol Backup, Papa thinks fast: “We’ve got some hot, stressed out kids and two loose chickens. Our best bet is to go 2 on 1 versus Snow White, and then go after BRM.  And….yes! The tag team operation works! Snow White is home safely. Now they must rescue BRM!

[Aside: They are now 15 minutes late for dropping James off for a lunch/playdate which is being chaperoned by a very punctual grandfather. Papa promises James that the search will continue without him, and  after a quick drop off for James, the search continues….]

Act 4: The Search Continues:

The search party is down to three (Papa, Bella, and Kats), but even with the midday heat pounding down on them, they know that have to find Big Red Mama. They know they’re on a mission. They have offered prayers of thanksgiving many times before eating chicken, but this time they say a short prayer for a chicken–a prayer of protection for Big Red Mama.

They stop to get something cold to drink and to make a plan. Papa knows he’s got to go into those woods to get BRM, but the girls won’t be able to make it. So, they decide that given what they’ve got, it’s time to play a little match-up zone trap on BRM. The plan: Papa will go into the woods and either grab BRM, if he can, or at least flush her out. If she comes out, the girls’ job is to surround her, so that she can’t get back to those woods. The plan, while risky, works to a charm. It unfolds just the way Papa diagrammed it on his sweaty T-Shirt.

Now BRM is safe and sound. BRM, who  was once lost, is now found.

Act 5: The Reunion:

Papa places tired BRM into her new home. Snow White and Goldilocks are waiting. The reunion begins. They seem to look at one another as if to say: “Not only are we back together, girls, but we’ve got the sweetest chicken tractor in Wake County!” Walking away, Kats grins and can’t resist saying “And they lived happily ever after!”

A Happy Ending!

The three chickens reunited, settle in to their new home! (image: Sam Ewell)

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